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Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill Photo: Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill
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Sacrifices of Security - 7.15.03
In Focus  :  Profiling  :  Profiling Debate Transcript
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Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill is an innovative public affairs series from PBS that brings together both compelling examinations of critical issues and a dynamic pairing of two of the most respected names in journalism.


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The Evansville 8
Profiling Debate
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Gwen Ifill examines the debate surrounding the use of profiling with Steve Pomerantz, Former Assistant Director of the FBI and Nabih Ayad, a civil rights attorney.

Gwen Ifill:
The practice of singling out individuals of one group is called ethnic profiling. And for people in law enforcement, it's an important tool in their security arsenal. But others call it un-American.

We're joined now by Steve Pomerantz, Former Assistant Director of the FBI.

And attorney Nabih Ayad who lives in suburban Detroit… home to the largest Arab community outside the Middle East. He's counsel to the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Welcome Gentlemen.

Mr. Pomerantz — Un-American? Necessary? Which?

Steve Pomerantz:
Well profiling is a law enforcement tool that has been around for a long time. It is necessary, it's a useful tool. Profiling solely on the basis of someone's ethnicity or religion or race is simply wrong and shouldn't be done.

Ifill:
Mr. Ayad you represented a lot of men of Middle Eastern descent who had to register with the government after 9-11 and they started tightening that. What was your experience? Did people who were registering feel that they were being profiled?

Nabih Ayad:
I think absolutely, I think it's profile on its face when the government comes out and says we are going to have you register individuals from certain countries, certain Middle Eastern countries, I think that is profiling on its face. I mean they were cooperative with the law and registered…did what they were told…they didn't really have much of a choice. I think profiling is wrong, it hits at the core of civil liberties, fundamental constitutional rights. And the most important thing here is that profiling has not proven to be effective.

Ifill:
But if 19 men of Arab descent, all from… many of them from Saudi Arabia could hijack two planes, three planes crash them and cause the kind of trauma that we had and we'd have known in advance to watch out for men of Arab descent, wouldn't that have been worthwhile?

Ayad:
Well I think they were… even before 9/11, I think they were watching out for men of ethnic… Middle Eastern descent…with the racial profiling and what have you. You know as the term is driving while black, it's flying while Arab. I think that was well before 9/11.

Ifill:
Mr. Pomerantz who gets to make the distinction about who's worth profiling and who's not?

Pomerantz:
Well again it's based on an analysis of certain objective facts. For example you talk about profiling of people from certain Middle East countries. Yes, there are countries in this world particularly Middle East countries that are state sponsors of terrorism. I think it is reasonable to look at citizens of those countries in terms of potential terrorists.

Ifill:
But Saudi Arabia is one of our allies. It is not one of these state sponsors of terrorism yet you could argue that we should be watching Saudi Arabia?

Pomerantz:
I would make that argument, yes, because of the… because of the certain activities carried on by the Saudi government… because of the fact… as you said, a large number of the 19 September 11 terrorists came out of Saudi Arabia. I would argue that based on the activities and actions of the Saudi government and certainly the actions and activities of those countries that are state sponsors of terrorism, it is not ethnic profiling to look at their citizens a little more closely as they enter the country.

Ifill:
It is not ethnic profiling? What do your clients say?

Ayad:
I think it is clear ethnic profiling. I think when you target certain individuals from certain countries you're saying that you're the ones that we're looking at, you're the individuals that we're targeting.

Ifill:
So what do you do about that? How can you not target certain people if they fit the profile?

Ayad:
I think… I think these individuals from the firsthand if they are terrorist they are more sophisticated than that. They know what the red flags are for the government to sit there and to target them and what have you. I think they have overcome that …that's proven by 9/11. I think if they would use good old-fashioned intelligence, sources would be much more effective without shielding away civil liberties. I think there is this falsity out there that you have to take away civil liberties in order to have security. There is nothing that's been proven throughout history that is the case.

Ifill:
Mr. Pomerantz. How do you find that balance?

Pomerantz:
Well it's a difficult balance to find. I agree we do not have to give up our civil liberties in this fight against terrorism. I don't think we have. I think the things the government has done up 'til now have been reasonable steps as part of this fight against terrorism. I do agree that the gathering of intelligence is the single most important thing but I certainly don't feel that looking at… look… we would be… I think there are two issues…two truths that exist simultaneously. First of all, it is certainly true that most Arabs and most Muslims certainly in the United States and worldwide are not terrorists, are not supporters of terrorists and do not condone terrorism and that's true. But it also is true that right now the terrorist threat against this country emanates out of the Middle East and out of Middle Eastern citizens and we can't be blind to that. It would be against our best interests to be blind to that reality.

Ifill:
Ok, well we're going to have to leave the debate there for now.
Thank you very much.



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